Last night at the Delaware State Board of Education meeting, five Delaware charter schools received unanimous approval from board members. Academia Antonia Alonso, Early College High School, First State Montessori Academy, and Sussex Academy were approved with no conditions. For Thomas Edison Charter School, that was a different story. And for another, the State Board did not get a complete record.
In a nutshell, Thomas Edison hasn’t updated their bylaws since 2003. As a result of changes in Delaware state code and regulatory activities, their Board of Directors is out of compliance with state law. They must update this immediately or face the prospect of formal review. This includes board member training and transparency concerning recruitment of new board members. As well, they must give their Head of School his evaluation by March 30th. Last fall, the charter school had severe issues when the President of their board was put on leave. This caused parents to revolt and protest. Head of School Salome Thomas-EL was reinstated and a new Board President was chosen. A few board members quit.
Sussex Academy is the first Delaware Charter School to receive a ten-year renewal. Most charters get a five-year nod, but over time this can be extended to ten years based on their annual performance appraisals. I disagree with this option because that is a long time for any charter school to not be given this process. While I am not indicating any wrongdoing for Sussex Academy, I believe the oversight involved with charter schools should not be extended past five years. The State Board gave a shout-out to the school for being the first to get this.
I had some issues with First State Montessori Academy’s approval. Not that I didn’t think they should be renewed, but rather the process behind it. As a part of that process, the State Board MUST review the complete public record submitted by the Charter School Office at the DOE. That includes parent complaints. I know for a fact that at least one parent sent a substantial complaint to that office well over a week before the public comment period ended on December 8th. It would not have been even close enough for the school to receive a non-renewal but it could have opened eyes to some systemic special education issues going on at the school. The charter school did not have any representation at the meeting last night. I did give public comment indicating this situation after the charter renewals but I did not specifically name the school. This may very well have been an oversight, but it also makes me wonder if there were other parent complaints that were not included for all the charter school renewals.
Aside from Thomas Edison, there wasn’t any discussion among the State Board about the other charter renewals. While they were all approved, it would have been nice to see some type of discussion concerning these schools. Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting had to leave the meeting shortly after the renewals so that could have been a factor.
Nothing was said during the monthly charter school presentation about Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security. Denise Stouffer, who runs this part of the meeting, didn’t have much to say during this part of the meeting. I still expect a formal review recommendation to come forth early in 2018. I do understand that five charter school renewals going on at the same time is A LOT of work for that office which does not have a huge staff. Next year will be even busier for charter renewals as seven charter schools will go through the same process: Positive Outcomes, Kuumba Academy, Newark Charter School, Delaware Design-Lab High School, First State Military Academy, Freire and Great Oaks.